And I guess that is the question isn’t it?
I’ve always thought of Christ as, for lack of a better term, an avatar of God. I believe that the breaking of this world caused a schism between our finite world and eternity that only Jesus could breach. I believe Christ was God made flesh, that what he experienced went directly back to the entity that is God. And I believe that happened so that God could experience humanity without the separation that normally exists between the finite and the infinite.
In addition, I’ve always found the Christian practice of Jesus worship (particularly their fixation on the instrument of his death) to be bordering on maudlin idolatry. Despite believing in him, I’ve noticed through my faith journey that I talk directly to God, and that only twice has Jesus been the focus of my worship specifically.
The first time, I was thinking about the Jews, and how they had the automatic in with God. (Not really, but . . . you know. God’s chosen people and all that. You get it.) And then I thought about how it was only because of Jesus’ sacrifice that I was able to experience the things I was experiencing with God. I was so struck by that for a moment that I, for the first and only time in my life, said the words “Thank you, Jesus” without a hint of irony.
The second time was a particularly bleak period for me; I was having some first world problems and being a big baby about the whole thing. Long story short, I generally felt like shit. I was about at the end of my rope, when I had a dream. In the dream, Jesus and I were hanging out. Just hanging out, like any two friends might. We were talking, and through the process of our talking, Jesus did what I imagine Jesus did to practically everyone he met. He looked at me, and in seconds broke down all of my walls, saw right to the heart of me, and said some gentle thing that unraveled the entire core of my problem.
The whole dream was striking and vaguely uncomfortable because I HAAAAaaaaAAAAAAATE being on display like that, even to Jesus himself. But, it was also comforting because I felt such love and unconditional acceptance. When he suggested (not commanded) that I change some behaviors or habits, it felt like a suggestion given out of an undeniable and tangible sense of love and a desire for my well-being. I’ve never felt so exposed or so accepted in my entire life. The sensation of that dream stayed with me for days. For weeks.
Aside from those two situations, Jesus doesn’t enter my thoughts as anything other than the way I am able to do the things I am able to do and experience the things I’m able to experience. When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one gets to the father but through me,” I read that as, “Because I did this thing, you get to talk to God.” Most people seem to interpret that statement to mean something more like this:
“Immediately disregard everything I said about not worshipping me. I never wanted that before, but now. . . I died for all you assholes! So . . . make with the worship or be forever condemned to the fires of hell!”
Now, I’m not sure I believe in the fires of hell – at least, not in the way that hell is often portrayed. But that’s another blog post entirely. Either way, when left to my own devices, I don’t pray directly to Jesus any more than I would express profuse thanks a computer for allowing me to access the internet. The computer isn’t the internet, it’s just my doorway to it, and no man comes to the WTFaith blog but through it. (Disclaimer – I do not pray to the internet.) So it is with Jesus and God, in my mind – because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I can pray directly to God. And that’s great – but that doesn’t mean my prayers need to be directed toward Jesus.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate what Jesus did for me. Really, it’s more to do with the difficulty in determining what I know about him. The problem is, the only place Jesus is ever talked about is in the Bible. I have some issues with the Bible, more-or-less because I have issues with people. Everything humans touch, we tend to fuck up – and the Bible has been touched so much it has to point at a doll in a closed room meeting. I doubt its infallibility, because I recognize how easy it would have been for power hungry people, with access to the early books, to change the Bible to suit their desires. People tell me that wouldn’t happen, because it’s the Bible and people worked very hard to preserve it. I find that to be a very sweet idealism, and I hope they never see the cynical, stop-at-nothing face of humanity that I have seen. Call me paranoid, but I just don’t trust us. Even if it started as the inspired (and therefore infallible) word of God himself, it has been used to justify and cause so much pain and harm that it no longer resembles its original self at all. I don’t know about God, but when I’m dealing with my kids, and they start using some toy I bought them to hurt their siblings, I take the damn toy away and revoke their privilege to use it.
And yet, despite all of the reasons I shouldn’t, I believe in Jesus. With my inability to believe the Bible as infallible, why do I believe in Christ? Why is it Christianity that drew me through the door? Why is it, despite all of my issues with being associated with the beliefs and actions of (what the majority of the world considers to be) Christians, here I am writing an off-color blog about practicing the Christian faith? I have an answer to this question, but it is kind of simple and unsatisfying. I believe in Christ because that seems to be the direction all the signs and portents I’ve experienced point to. More importantly, no matter how pissed off I seem to get at Christians, when I think about throwing Baby Jesus out with the bathwater, it feels . . . wrong.
I compare the feeling I get when thinking of no longer believing in Jesus, while still maintaining my faith in God, to looking at a car’s engine and trying to fix a problem. I know it’s an engine, but that’s about where my understanding of its mechanics stops. That engine is very complex, and since I’m only kind of sure what I’m looking at, I should probably not mess with it. I should probably call in a professional.
That’s kind of how I feel about maintaining a belief in Christ. The interpretations we have of who Jesus might have been or what he was trying to teach us differs a lot from person to person. I’ve heard people that depict him like a vegan, hippy sort. I’ve heard people depict him like a biker or hunter, kind of a grizzled sort. I picture him as a dude wearing a hoodie, hanging out and enjoying being with the people around him. We have such a brief glimpse into the life of this person, all of it only ever documented in one place. It stands to reason we would compartmentalize him to be someone we could relate to. Because of that, though, we tend to put our own interpretations on his character, his actions and his words. That makes it hard to really know who he was. Be that as it may, I recognize him as important even if I don’t fully understand all the mechanics and inner workings of that importance. Given my lack of understanding, I should probably leave that alone and get a professional if something breaks with it.
So, why, if I don’t believe the Bible as a literal and infallible word of God, and if I disagree with most modern day Christians, why do I continue to associate with them? The best answer I can give is that the things I’ve felt from God and his interactions in my life are, for me, beyond doubt. When I was lost and looking for a home, God led me to Hillside – he made his stance on Jesus pretty clear. And, most importantly, despite how uncomfortable some of the things surrounding believing in Christ make me, when I think about separating that from the experiences I have, it just feels wrong.
I’ve decided to trust my instincts and my intuitions on this topic, and thus far it hasn’t done me wrong. How about you guys? Has there ever been a core tenant of your faith that you found yourself struggling to believe? Did you find it hard to keep your faith around it, or did you determine you were just getting lost in the metaphoric weeds and got over it?